City report card: Cantwell’s colour is something to be celebrated
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Todd Cantwell’s development last season was a joy to witness - and he should be a player celebrated by Norwich City supporters. Connor Southwell analyses the creative midfielder in the latest edition of our report card series.
Todd Cantwell’s development last season was unexpected, joyous and, for Norwich City, proof that local lads can thrive on the biggest stage of all - the Premier League.
From the suburbs of Dereham, the attacking midfielder has forged a path from impressive academy player to integral first-team operator.
Years of frustration, adversity and graft finally came to fruition as he grabbed the mantle and surfed his way onto the Premier League stage.
Since he was a young child, he had dreamt of taking the Carrow Road pitch as a first-team player, and when his shot hit the back of the net against Manchester City, it was clear for all to see how much it meant to him and his family.
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“They have to pinch themselves on Saturdays when they’re watching, especially during that Manchester City game.” Cantwell recalled. “I remember looking up and I saw tears coming from everyone. I know exactly what it means to play for this club. I’ve worked a long time and put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get here.
“I’m thankful to say that I play here but nobody gave it to me. I had to work very hard and I’m lapping it up at the moment.
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“I don’t get too carried away, but I don’t get too down either. My family are very quick to pin me to the floor and let me know that I’m no one yet.”
Underpinning every success that Cantwell has, there is this perception that people are keen to put on his shoulders, it’s something that follows around Jack Grealish and James Maddison and more exposure has seen it increasingly angled towards City’s youngster.
As he dances on social media or plaits his hair, the louder those voices become - it seemed to reach a fever pitch after football’s return, with more eyeballs placed upon City’s matches.
Many perceive it to be arrogance, but self-confidence is key in a game when plenty are quick to write you off.
That colourful nature to Cantwell’s personality is seen by some as a flaw when, in reality, it is a young man letting loose and refusing to take himself too seriously.
In a game where media-trained answers are prominent and personalities fading away, Cantwell’s openness should be celebrated rather than discouraged.
Creative midfielders are mavericks. They want to impose themselves onto matches and embrace the unpredictability in their boots - but they are human.
For every TikTok or Instagram post is endless hours of refinement and graft that have shaped the player that has embraced the Premier League.
All of those elements are, frankly, irrelevant to any discussion surrounding his ability.
But perceptions are hard to shift.
Even within his own fanbase, some will reflect upon his actions off the pitch to form an opinion on his footballing ability.
For Canaries supporters, he should be celebrated. Cantwell is a local lad who has realised the dreams of numerous others to represent his local side - he could go on to forge an incredible career in the game, that should be cherished rather than beaten down.
Even in City’s title-winning season, the midfielder found himself the target of harsh criticism online after City’s 1-1 draw with Wigan Athletic - something he admits hurt him.
“That was a tough time and I really didn’t take it well. It made me genuinely not want to be involved.
“I went out there and produced what I thought was a good performance but came off the pitch after the game and received all the stick for everything that went on.
“It was my first experience of being on the other end. I couldn’t get away from it. It was coming straight at me,” he told the Telegraph earlier this season.
That criticism re-emerged after he displayed frustration and upset on the pitch after City’s 2-0 defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion.
In an Instagram post defending his actions, Cantwell wrote: “I stayed on the pitch because it hurts me. I didn’t want to act like I was okay in the changing room so I removed myself and reflected.”
At City, they have a mantra - ignore the noise.
When all is said and done, Cantwell was still one of City’s most productive players.
Behind Teemu Pukki, nobody scored more goals in yellow and green.
His drop of the shoulder excellent, his technical ability undeniable.
There is an argument that suggests he is better suited to the top-flight, but City will be hoping to utilise his talents in the Championship.
One thing is for sure; City fans will miss him when he’s gone.